FSF-backed DRM protesters don hazmat suits at WinHEC

Summary:According to DVD-Recordable.org:As Microsoft developers gathered in Seattle to hear Bill Gates's keynote speech on the future of Microsoft and the coming release of its updated operating system Vista, protesters wearing bright yellow Hazmat suits swarmed the entrance of the city's convention center, delivering an unsettling message to the corporation: your product is defective and hazardous to users....

According to DVD-Recordable.org:

As Microsoft developers gathered in Seattle to hear Bill Gates's keynote speech on the future of Microsoft and the coming release of its updated operating system Vista, protesters wearing bright yellow Hazmat suits swarmed the entrance of the city's convention center, delivering an unsettling message to the corporation: your product is defective and hazardous to users....The surprise protest marked the launch of  DefectiveByDesign.org, a direct-action campaign that will target Big Media and corporations peddling Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). "Flash protests, direct actions, and practical ways that people can get involved and help stop the stupidity of DRM," is how campaign manager Gregory Heller described the grassroots effort....An initiative of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), Defective By Design is urging all technologists to get involved at the start of the campaign.

Here's the photo (see copyright disclaimer regarding this photo at the end of this blog post), courtesy of DefectiveByDesign.org

WinHECstreetscene.jpg

There are two issues here. 

1. Digital rights management is like unsolicted commercial e-mail. UCE was just never an acronym that resulted in awareness or action. UCE needed something sexier that the masses could sink their teeth into.  Something like "spam."  DRM, as acronyms go, isn't going to make Otis turn red in the gills with anger.  And, with all due respect to the Free Software Foundation which is behind DefectiveByDesign.org, I can think of a million things that are defective by design.  DRM needs a special name.  A name that you can sink your teeth into like "spam."  A name like "CRAP."  Even better, Richard Stallman, the leader of the Free Software Foundation, likes the acronym CRAP and came up with a better suggestion than I did for what it should stand for (one that ZDNet's readers approved of)! Stallman wants CRAP to stand for Cancellation, Restriction And Punishment.  Works for me and it's ZDNet-reader approved.  So, to you anti-DRM folks who want that crap out of your lives, use CRAP to get your point across.

2. Here on ZDNet, and in email, I've been taking some heat for my idealism, or in this case, my lack thereof, when it comes to DRM... er... CRAP.   Follow this thread for an example. Some readers would rather see me stick to the hard line of buying and advocating nothing that includes DRM.  In essence, donning a hazmat suit like the CRAP-fighters above (personally, what better metaphor can you ask for..  hazmat suits, crap...get the picture?). So, just to be clear, I haven't personally purchased any DRM-related material since first figuring out the downside for myself (not being able to play 99 cent songs on a $20K whole home audio system).  That said,  I've had people come up to me and ask which MP3 player they should buy for themselves or someone else as a gift and, invariably, they're not open to the idea of not buying one at all, buying one that takes a lot of work (circumventing DRM, digitizing music yourself), or breaking the law.  I know.  They must be from another planet.  Freaks. 

OK, back on Earth, these people exist.  And so, the question is, do you stick to your ideals, walk away, and let them suffer from their own lack of enlightenment.  Or, do you at least try to guide them to something that's a fender bender compared to a fatal accident? I will vote with my dollars.  But, at the same time, if there are people out there that refuse to heed the ultimate advice, I can't let my idealism stand in the way of steering people away from the trainwrecks.  That's why I'll try to guide people like that to solutions like Navio or Project DReaM, only after giving up on convincing them to not buy any of this CRAP.  CRAP is a dirty business and in the end, it's we, the users, who get dumped on.  But there are some things we can do to control the extent to which that happens.

As a side note, I have begun circulating a note internally here at CNET Networks that asks those in a position to do so to take a harder line against DRM than is traditionally taken across all of our Web properties. It includes some concrete editorial measures that can be taken in order to better inform our audience members of the consequences every time they vote for DRM with their dollars.

Copyright notice regarding the photo included with this post: Copyright 2006 Free Software Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA 02110-1301, USA. Verbatim copying and distribution of site content permitted worldwide, without royalty, in any medium, provided this notice, and the copyright notice, are preserved.

Topics: Legal

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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